Image: Cover of Gavin Morrison & Sigrid Sandström (editors) Ignorance: Between Knowing and Not Knowing (Stockholm: Axl Books, 2015).
From the synopsis of Ignorance: Between Knowing and Not Knowing: “'Ignorance is an intellectual defect, imperfection, privation, or shortcoming.' So begins James Ferrier's 'The Agnoiolgy,' the section of his treatise, The Institutes of Metaphysic (1854), in which he describes a theory of ignorance. In sympathy with Ferrier, Ignorance between knowing and not knowing concerns the nature of ignorance, its relationship to knowledge and its differentiation from merely not knowing. However, this book additionally considers how different forms of ignorance exert force within the creation and reception of art. These topics are explored through a range of essays drawn from contributors within the fields of philosophy, literary theory, and art criticism.
“Ignorance provides a reflection in negative to the normative structure of knowledge. It is the absence of knowledge that we 'should have.' This moral dimension can be seen in the persona, created by the medieval philosopher Nicholas of Cusa, of 'the idiot,' who is aware of his ignorance yet this awareness brings with it a humility, or the assumed ignorance within the Socratic dialogues. This book traces connections between ignorance within the philosophical realm – as both a strategy within discourse and as an object of inquiry – and how it occurs within art. Particular consideration is paid to art's utilization of ignorance as a means for establishing uncertainty and ambiguity. Within this publication ignorance is not solely understood as a state one seeks to escape from but rather, through its role within art and philosophy, it offers the potential to other forms of articulation and understanding.”
Contributors: Andrew Bennett, Jonna Bornemark, Elinor Hållén, John Llewelyn, Gavin Morrison, Jeanine Oleson, Sigrid Sandström, Barry Schwabsky, Kim West and Olav Westphalen.
Introduction essay (by Gavin Morrison & Sigrid Sandström) begins:
We Are Ignorant
Ignorance is endemic; it is talked of like it is a disease or affliction with the attended suggestion that it can be caught and transferred to others. The dunce sitting in the corner is a gesture of quarantine, not simply punishment. There is a moral dimension to ignorance. Ignorance is not merely not knowing; there is a presumption that the absent knowledge should be known, thereby ignorance is a defective or incomplete form of the normative state. Choosing ignorance is an obstinate refusal to comply, a renegade mode that refuses to defer to standards of knowledge. However, this requires the individual to be aware of their ignorance, knowing that one does not know. The necessity of this structural relationship is paralleled within various art making practices. Indeed, those who would most commonly be thought of as ignorant are referred to as naïve artists. Their ignorance which sets them apart. They are likely unaware of their naivety, and their failing in relation to the standard methods or techniques. However, this publication considers ignorance in relation to creative practices in the widest sense in which ignorance is more nuanced and pervasive than commonly perceived.